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Random Thoughts and tidbits from a lifelong Gamer.
Nintendo Review - It was mostly about Games, but most people lost interest.
Overall Rating : C
Nintendo began their press conference in some style. Shigeru Miyamoto took the stage and with a quirky little AR video of Pikmin hanging around audience members, he went right in to demo Pikmin 3 on the Wii-U. This quick start to the conference, soaring right into the games seemed like a good approach for Nintendo, they were going to bang out a healthy amount of content in the time allotted.
Unfortunately, things didn't go that way at all. After Miyamoto exited, Reggie Fils-Aime took the stage to a strong round of applause. Reggie told us we'd see (in one form or another) 26 games shown onstage today. He said with that much content, there wasn't a lot of time to waste. He then proceeded to spend 10 minutes talking about how little time he had to convey Nintendo's message. While I speak in jest, one really couldn't help but wonder why Reggie was spending so much time talking, dramatic pauses aside? The answer sadly is that Nintendo barely had enough content to fill their hour, and time wasters such as Reggie droning on drove this point home remarkably well.
Games were indeed shown. What would a new Nintendo console be without a new Mario game? Well we say new Mario game but Nintendo actually means a sequel of an existing franchise adapted for the Wii-U. Between this "reveal" and the reveal of two new Mario games for the 3DS, Mario was clearly in the spotlight in a desperate attempt to play on the nostalgia of gamers. However intelligent this play may seem, you can't help but feel pity for Nintendo's aging mascots and the pace they sometimes have to be put through to sell hardware.
Outside of Mario and Pikmin, very little first party games were shown. Ubisoft seems to be the only third party developer on board Nintendo's ship right now as they have a plethora of titles they are showing this E3, most of which will be launch titles for the Wii-U. This is absolutely a step in the right direction for the big N, but it would be nice to see some other developers demo their wares. Hopefully that's what the show floor will clear up.
The Wii-U itself as a new piece of hardware was given very little time at all which was expected considering the Nintendo pre E3 piece they put out days before the conference. However, focusing on some console news might've garnered more interest for the event. Instead, Nintendo vaguely references that "in the future" all will be made clear. Seriously, no announcement of price? Hardware Bundles? Confirmed launch lineup software? Release Date??? I don't know what Nintendo is waiting on, it would seem they do not have all the kinks worked out of this impending launch. The best bone Nintendo threw the audience was the confirmation that 2 Wii-U gamepads would be supported by the console.
So there you have it, a look at Nintendo's press conference. All in all it wasn't a poor or painful conference per se (excluding of course those atrocious promo videos shown by Satoru Iwata after the stage event ended) but the conference lacked energy and life. Indeed it felt like everyone just hit the stage, delivered their lines then got the heck outta dodge as fast as they could. Even Miyamoto, who usually embodies the timeless example of boyhood joy was surprisingly flat and sped through his presentation as fast as he and his translator could. And finally, Nintendo lacked what all the other [E3 press conferences] lacked, surprise. Every single game shown failed to elicit that "wow" reaction from the crowd. It is telling when the game that gets the most applause is a third party zombie game called ZombiU. And that's really what our industry needs right now, another zombie game...
Sony Review - It's ALL about Games!!!
Overall Rating : A-
Sony started its press conference off with a bang, a video montage that captured the heart and soul of the numerous PlayStation and multiplatform brands in existence today. The impressive video production set the tone for what truly was one of the most enjoyable and memorable E3 press conferences for many years.
Sony hit all the strides on this one, spending just enough time on each game to wet your appetite while not overindulging it. And boy were there games. Jack Tretton promised early on that this year, Sony wanted to pay tribute to a very important aspect of their business; us, the gamers. While actual surprise announcements were scarce (the only memorable ones being Far Cry 3's four player co-op and the addition of battles on the high seas in Assassins Creed III on PS Vita), the lineup of titles heading to the PlayStation in the coming year is powerful and a testament to the quality brand they have created.
Thankfully, the Move wasn't at the heart of the show, and this ultimately saved them. Instead Sony is deciding to shift the Move's focus into the younger generation of gamers with its reveal of Wonderbook, a move-centric peripheral that brings classic storytelling to life. The Brits will raise a cheer as J.K Rowling is onboard to create a Harry Potter spinoff book that once again sets players in the world of Hogwarts learning to cast spells. While noticeably aimed at families with small children, it is understandable why Sony chose E3 to showoff this new concept despite obvious lack of interest from the hardcore gaming crowd. Personally I think they spent about 4 minutes too long on this particular announcement, I know I got bored and starting surfing the net before it ended.
This tangent aside, games were all the rage at the conference showing that Sony actually is listening to what we have to say (exclude the gimmicks and hype and show us the games). God of War Ascension, PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale, Far Cry 3, Assassins Creed III and finally The Last Of Us all got screen and gameplay time, and all seemed to be hits across the board.
Sony's first game of the conference was actually one we had the least information (pre conference about) yet knew of its existence. That title was revealed as Beyond: Two Souls, and stars acclaimed screen actress Ellen Page as the main protagonist. The game looks amazing, and while this was clearly a teaser with no gameplay attached to it, the audience's reaction was one of amazement and intrigue. Indeed for myself, this title just became my new most watched title of E3, and I will be anxious to see if we gleam more information about the title in the coming days.
So there you have it. All in all a solid performance from Sony. The Vita received the right amount of screen time and while it seems Sony is finally letting the Move slip from the spotlight, they can be applauded for finding some clever (albeit very targeted) uses for the peripheral. The only negatives I found to the show were the length of time spent on Wonderbook (too much) and the glaring audio issues that appeared multiple times in the show. Good job Sony, now let's see how Nintendo can come to bat...
Microsoft Review - Where are the games???
Overall Rating : C+
So the first of quite a few press conferences has come and gone and Microsoft has led the pack. Overall the press conference ran smoothly from a technical standpoint, and had a nice and sleek set and stage for the event. While there were very few surprises (as expected) the overall conference featured a wide and decent range of content for all.
MS began with some Halo 4 footage and gameplay, a nice way to start the show. The visuals looks very good and the gameplay appeared smooth. Don Mattrick then took the stage to welcome everyone and "tease" the conference. It was interesting to note that this is the first year the conference has been streamed live on Xbox Live. After Mattrick left some Splinter Cell Blacklist footage was shown followed by live gameplay. So far so good MS.
After we get through Splinter Cell, Andrew Wilson (head of EA Sports) took the stage to demo some of the Kinect integration teased at last year's E3. FIFA and Madden we're shown, with Joe Montana taking the stage to thunderous applause to demo the new Madden voice commands. Montana seemed a little awkward onstage but still managed to get through the demo with no hiccups and even a few laughs.
Next a trailer for Fable : The Journey is played with no game play footage to follow. After this we head into the usual Microsoft territory, how the Xbox is transforming our living rooms into the totally connected and integrated place to be. After some reveals of new service partners joining the array of Xbox apps (Nickelodeon and Paramount being among them), we learn ESPN is being expanded although the ways and details of precisely how weren't clearly discussed. And finally for this segment, Microsoft unveiled Xbox Music, what basically appears to be their own version of popular streaming music sites such as Pandora and others.
Next, a Nike rep took the stage to discuss how fitness is being expanded through Kinect and announced a new Project called Nike + Kinect Training. Fitness enthusiasts should be thrilled, gamers on the other hand are starting to get bored by this point with the drought of any core gaming announcements.
Probably the addition which will be the most talked about will be the official unveiling of Xbox Smart Glass. Essentially an app (available across multiple platforms and devices) will allow you to connect all your devices together and let multiple devices work for your current selection of entertainment. Examples of such interface comes from someone watching a hit movie on their tablet and then pausing the movie and resuming it directly on your TV connected to your Xbox. In addition, while you are watching an episode of your favorite show, your other devices can provide additional information directly related to the episode you are watching (say a virtual show map with pins representing where key events in the storyline took place).
Some game integration featuring this service was also shown. While the tech is quite impressive, how you will have the time to be looking at your other devices while actually playing a game (and not getting killed) remains to be seen. Also how much of this additional content for Movies / TV / Games, etc will be completely dependant on the developers remains to be seen.
Finally to wrap up the Smart Glass section it was announced that Internet Explorer would be coming to Xbox 360. Full Kinect support available as expected. By this point in the conference it becomes very apparent that Microsoft will not allow anyone onstage unless their product in some way uses Kinect.
After this we finally got back to some games. Crystal Dynamics showed off a new section of the new Tomb Raider game and admittedly it looked very good. Fans of the "vocal" Lara fear not, she was just as grunty in this level as in previous sections. A few new smaller IP's were teased following this but considering the vagueness of the unveils not much is apparent yet about these new titles.
Resident Evil fans then got a treat with some gameplay of RE6. The gameplay looked tight and fans of the series should hopefully still enjoy the game despite the fact that the survival horror element of the genre seems completely abandoned for more over-the-top action packed gameplay. Also a lot of the demo was focused on a context sensitive cutscene where your involvement stems to simply push buttons by onscreen prompts. Haven't developers yet learned that this isn't a successful way to involve the gamer in a cutscene?
Following this Alex from the Xbox Live team (the only female to hit the stage mind you) came to the stage and proceeded to give the most awkward performance of a new Kinect game called Wreckateer, available as part of Microsoft's annual Summer of Arcade series this year.
After this came the highlight of the conference for me, some South Park The Game footage. Now called South Park : The Stick of Truth, the game looks very appropriate for the universe and while actual gameplay footage was at a minimum the game still managed to shine bright with the usual South Park humor we've come to know and love. Trey Parker and Matt Stone took the stage to talk about the game a bit as well as the challenges they have been facing (namely actually mapping the town of South Park after 13 years of it's existance as a TV series). They also managed to slip in a little jab towards MS and its desire to control every device you own, something I found remarkably humorous.
If South Park was the highlight of the show, the lowlight would shine next. A Harmonix trailer for Dance Central 3 is shown with a small interview of Usher featured in the video. To the surprise of all Usher says in the video he will show you his new Dance moves, and then proceeds to come to the stage for a live show. While I'm all for the advent of live entertainment, this was absolute garbage as it was just Usher performing onstage. No gameplay of Dance Central even accompanied this performance. For shame Microsoft, your conference should be about games not trying to win the non-gaming public to your event with unspeakably awful choice of performers and performances.
Don Mattrick thankfully took the stage after this to rap the event down, but of course not without one more "surprise". That surprise, naturally, was in game footage of the new Call of Duty title Black Ops II. Considering the lengths to which Microsoft goes to ensure every E3 presentation of theirs for the last 4 years has had Call of Duty be a part of it, one begins to wonder what Microsoft would do if the franchise ever failed to make an annual appearance? Might they 'gasp' have to actually be creative and come up with some original content???
So there you have it, a rundown of the Microsoft Press Conference. All told, it wasn't as painful as previous years (see Felicia Day messing around with Dashboard crap, Xbox Live Labs, and children onstage playing Kinect). That being said, Microsoft once again has failed to wow the hardcore audience, choosing to ensure you get a boatload of Kinect stuff jammed down your throats instead on inventive new IP's or even 1st party games that can invigorate the platform. Some of the 3rd party entries we're great to see, but Microsoft has once again failed to captivate the demographic of gamers that put them on the map. And as disgusted as that audience is right now, you can absolutely place money on the fact that all will be forgiven when we get a glimpse of the much anticipated next iteration of the Xbox brand, the Xbox 720 (or whatever the console will ultimately be called).
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